Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙞𝙧𝙙 𝙞𝙨 𝙂𝙤𝙣𝙚 - 𝙎𝙪𝙣 𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙈𝙞𝙣𝙙
Charles considers a live worth living...
Over the months and years I seem to have forgotten about a very important aspect of music… Yes, I am actually going to be talking about music. You see, every week I go on about technical terms that most of you wouldn’t be able to understand; like “punch”, “oomph” and “POW”. But I must learn to realise that we can’t all be muso audiophiles like me (oh please, it’s a yoke). I speak of melody and harmony and how things fit together (another technical term). I speak of technique and musical judgement. I speak of recording quality and mixing knowledge. I speak of panning and even occasionally specific frequencies. I speak of reverb and delays and all sorts of other magical wonders that make a good thing better. I speak of the way a guitarist digs in to the guitar. I speak of how a trumpet will portray the saddest of moods within the breaths between the notes. I even pick up on the “mistakes” that MAKE the song; the perfection in imperfection. I go into how the artist has honed their sound, delving and diving into the depths of each individual note and made it as good as it can possibly be. I speak of sparkle and clarity. I speak of bass that vibrates so ferociously it makes my nose tickle. But all in all, I am listening intently. I am in the process of analysis. I am rarely taking a step back. Maybe even several steps back. You see, each release is a static recording. I am able to go back to lines I didn’t quite catch, or mentally zoom in on that crash cymbal choke and marvel at its harmonics. I can play it again and again, getting to know each vocal flick (another technical term) and drumstick drop (more technical terms, of course - when the drummer drops his stick, for those not so wordily endowed). It is the familiarity and unchanged sound that is warming and close to our hearts. It is this that makes a classic, a classic.
So what IS this aspect of music that has left me of late? Blink and you miss it… Literally. There’s no going back. I am talking about the nature of all things LIVE. The GIGS! The CONCERTS! The SHOWS!! We all get so into the stream of it all, lost in playlist after playlist, release after release, that I think some of us forget the simplicity of playing a song in real life. That these artists are actually real people with real voices, real instruments and perhaps a drinking habit. Or perhaps not. It is live that music TRULY comes to life. And yet, it has been FAR too long since I have been to a giggity gig. I’ve been spending so much time with the speakers, the headphones and the screen, in making the stuff, that I had forgotten the joy of actually going to see a live act! So what did I do over the weekend? I’ll give you one guess… That’s right! I stayed in, and continued mixing and producing in front of a damned screen. BUT! I did daydream a little in between mixes. In between! I’m not paid to daydream. Ahem. I was thinking about my life in music. All the music I’ve made over the years (shameless plug: album on the way, folks). All the bands I’ve been in. I thought of all those gigs I played. I played far more than I went to. Drumming in one band, guitaring in another, and bassing in another. But never singing. Never my own songs. Always other people’s. Well, except for two acoustic gigs. One went tremendously (my first ever), but no one was there. The other was a full house, and it was truly dreadful. I forgot the words, then forgot how to play the guitar. Pure nerves. The nerves are what stopped me playing my own stuff live altogether. Unbelievable shakes that were probably similar to having Parkinson’s disease. So it wasn’t vibrato after all… The shame about the good gig was that it wasn’t recorded, and one could never go back to it. The great thing about the second gig was that it wasn’t recorded, and one could never go back to it. But this is the thing about live gigs. It is there for that moment and then it is gone. It is all about the NOW. The present. And WHAT a present it IS! Think of it less like a painting, and more like a grand dinner. It is consumed and then there is nothing left but contented wooziness and crumbs. But you are fulfilled. You are - at least for the time being - complete. There is nothing quite like a live giggity gig, as long as it is done well. Also, acoustic versions of hugely orchestrated pieces very rarely work - I would advise not even attempting it. Spotify and Apple Music, cds and vinyl all have their place, of course, but it is only in a live setting that one is brought IN to the music, rather than simply observing it. It is more personal, and almost everything is exaggerated. The gentle parts are gentler. The heavy parts are heavier. It’s all just better! We are truly swept up in the whole atmosphere, and nothing in the world matters, as time has temporarily paused for the duration.
But how then can I segue into a song review now? Is it a rare live review? Well, no. It is not. But this week’s artist is known for some truly stupendous live gigs. They release songs so rarely, in fact. And I suspect the reason being that they are almost certainly far too busy gigging all over the place to find time to record songs in the studio. Let’s talk about that. Please welcome for the first time (Lord knows why the first time), Sun State of Mind, with their incredible brand new single, The Bird is Gone. I must start by saying this. Rarely do I make such sweeping statements as this, but I feel I must. This song is not only the best song I have heard this year, but one of the very best songs ever to have existed on the New Artist Spotlight. Okay then: favourite. I must avoid that word, Best. The song’s quality instantly hit me like a frying pan, from the very first second. But before we get into that, let’s talk about the band with the most optimistic name. Sun State of Mind is a duo consisting of Stephanie Fath and Maximilian Stolze, otherwise known as Stephi and Max to we mere mortals. Their place of origin is not a stranger to great musicians, and composers whose music is immortal. Check THIS: Mozart, Haydn, Bruckner, Strauss, Mahler, Liszt, Schubert, Schoenberg and many more. Even a young Beethoven moved there at a young age. Must be something in the air… Can you tell I had a classical binge the other night…? So, where is this place? Yep, you guessed it. It’s Outer Mongolia! Oh, sorry - wrong script. It’s (*checks notes*) Vienna, Austria! You will now perhaps see why Sun State of Mind simply HAD to be good. Nay: GREAT! Otherwise they would simply wither under the competition of this great city’s past. All these composers do have one thing in common with the musical duo (aside from being Austrian). Live music! Admittedly, at the time it was the only way these great composers’ music could be heard, but STILL!! Sigmund Freud was also a notable Viennese slice, but we can’t ALL be in love with our mother. Your mother should know.
I am sure that every single one of you has been to a gig, but how many of you have been to a classical concert? Most? Some? A few? Well it is captivating. And it really does explain why classical music was the pop of back then. Nowadays it gets relegated to the records, or even classed as “grandfather music”. But live, it is so good BECAUSE it is live. You FEEL it. Literally. The celli (poofy way of saying cellos) and double bassi (made up way of saying double basses) actually vibrate the hall and the very seat you’re sitting in! It is thrilling! The horni make the walls throb. The violini sing as high as the ceiling and higher. But the gentlest piccolo receives the empty air with a welcome kiss. And all this has not changed! Live music of any kind will give you so much more than anything a speaker can manage. And yes, this includes “spatial audio” or Dolby Atmos”. Why bother with these expensive fads, when you can simply go to venue and experience it not “as if it were there in front of you”, but ACTUALLY there in front of you!!! This is what Sun State of Mind are all about. Bringing you something you can’t get on a cd or a streaming platform. An experience. An experience that so far I have only seen on live videos (very much not the same) and imagined from their music.
Final word on classical music. Consider this: most of ABBA’s music came from Bach. In fact, so MUCH pop has come classical music. We would simply not have the music of today without the great classical composers of the past. Okay, maybe Nicki Minaj - who I absolutely deTEST!!! Sometimes originality is not the best thing. But this thing of influence is so vital to all music. I went into more detail a few weeks ago when I spoke about Jam-Tako. When listening to The Bird is Gone (on Apple Music, sadly), Sun State of Mind have evidently been influenced (okay, I assume) by various artists, such as London Grammar, Adele (at her “goodest” and most powerful), Florence and the Machine, Warpaint, Lorde, and even Janis Joplin! But Sun State of Mind brings something new. The sound is delectable. Truly a treat. The wondrous effects, the deepest bass synth, the crispest of drums, the lushest of reverb-laden guitars, and oh, oh, oh, those INCREDIBLE VOCALS!!!! But they do this live?? Yup. The whole shebang is achieved by just the two of them, with a little help from our modern friend, technology. Loop stations and MPCs (don’t ask) are now part of the live scene. This is a far cry from the old “backing track”, believe me. This is full-on rock concert “feels”, in the setting of a psychedelic rave, yet (at least for this song) the vibe of Massive Attack. Honestly, it shouldn’t really work. But honestly, the band is amazing. Thrilling! While Max’s guitar work really is top notch and delicious in sound, I must admit, it is young Stephi who will grab your attention and continue to hold it tight until the very song’s close. Her range in terms of pitch and tone is genuinely astounding, yet never for a moment weird or alien to the listener. You’re probably imagining something really harsh and difficult to listen to if not in the mood. Like when Björk goes too far. Or when Janis Joplin does her very best Janis Joplin impression. But no. It is not remotely like that. Think of how Paul McCartney could go from I’ll Follow The Sun, to Oh Darling! THIS is what I mean by range. But what is singing prowess without a melody to sing?? The song itself is carried by the most adventurous and bravest of melodies. How melodies should be, basically. The opposite of Morrissey. Stephi uses this incredible range to great effect, by simply using ALL of it, but never for a second making you feel you’re being forced to listen to a vocal exercise. In short (or long), this is pretty much a masterclass in how to write a melody and how to sing. And how to play, arrange, produce and mix. Everything is perfect. Now, while I am always positive and praising in my reviews, I am rarely so flat-out simplistic as this. So brazenly to the point. But this is one song that simply NEEDS to be heard by all. And played and played again. And then I urge you to find out when and where they are playing their next gig, and book a ticket. I am hoping they play London at some point soon, as I WILL be there. After all this, I’ll probably find out they’ve stopped touring. Which would be quite embarrassing, wouldn’t it. But nah - they’re still going strong. If you and I fail to catch them live though, luckily their recordings are fabulous. Best of both worlds! So what are you waiting for?? TAP THE LINK BELOW TO LISTEN!!!
Will I be playing live gigs in the future? In the words of the lion from The Wizard of Oz: “If I only had the noyv”.
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